Three young children who were apparently left alone in a southwest Fresno apartment were hospitalized in critical condition Sunday afternoon for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out, Fresno fire officials said.
Fresno firefighters tweeted around 11:45 a.m. that they were working a residential fire at Westgate Gardens apartments, 851 E. Church Ave. with a child trapped inside. Battalion Chief Todd Tuggle said firefighters were let inside the apartment by someone with keys who they haven’t yet identified. Crews found a boy and two girls, approximately ages 1, 3 and 4, respectively.
The children were taken by ambulance to Community Regional Medical Center, where they were reported in critical condition for smoke inhalation. Tuggle said the 4-year-old girl was alert and breathing but the younger two required the assistance of a ventilator.
Fire spokesman Pete Martinez said all three children were unconscious when firefighters arrived. He said it’s plausible the girl woke up and was responsive for a while afterward, but at the hospital all three required breathing assistance. He said they would be transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital.
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The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Martinez said the fire department is working with Fresno police to determine whether the children were left alone and to determine the extent of the damage, most of which is caused by smoke. He said the apartment is salvageable.
Tuggle said the fire was confined to a corner of the front room where a television burned, causing heavy black toxic smoke. The TV filled the apartment with smoke, the smell of which lingered more than an hour later.
Apart from the children, no one else was in the apartment when firefighters arrived. Martinez said they haven’t identified the children’s parents yet.
“We had three children inside of the house,” he said. “From what we’ve gathered so far, they were unattended. Whether or not the mom was outside, who knows. That portion we don’t know about.”
Brandi Hutchinson, senior portfolio manager at Westgate Gardens, said the family had moved into the apartment less than a month ago. She said the apartment had recently had maintenance done and all appliances were working.
Hutchinson said she was in church when she heard what happened.
“I just pray that the babies make it,” she said.